Majority Press

Senator Collins' Committee Examines Ways to Make Long-Term Care Costs More Affordable

Senate Aging Committee Holds Hearing Titled, “The Future of Long-Term Care Policy”

WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing to explore options for improving the way we deliver and pay for long-term care.  Senator Collins is the Ranking Member of the Committee.

Currently, about 12 million Americans require long-term-care services — a number the U.S. Commission on Long-Term Care says will more than double by 2050.  Today, many people receive care from family and friends, but an increasing number depend on in-home care, or end up in assisted living facilities or nursing homes, where annual costs can range from $40,000 to $80,000, respectively.   This is an expense many middle-class families can’t afford.  

Senator Collins said, “Long-term care is the major catastrophic health expense faced by older Americans today, and these costs will only increase as our nation ages.  It is not just that there will soon be a great number of older Americans.  It is also that older Americans are living longer.  As a consequence, more people will need home care or long-term care yet will be challenged to afford it.”

Senator Collins highlighted the fact that today there are approximately seven potential caregivers for each person over age 80 and at the highest risk of needing long-term care. By 2030, there will be four, and by 2050, the number drops to fewer than three.   “It is, therefore, clear that we will have to do more to support family caregivers and to recruit and retain a robust and competent long-term care workforce.” Senator Collins said.

Hearing witnesses included individuals who served on the Long-Term Care Commission, which recently released a report that made recommendations on how our nation should address this growing challenge. Many questions remain, however, about how long-term care services and supports should be financed.

Senator Collins pointed out that many Americans mistakenly believe that Medicare or their private insurance provides coverage for long-term care, which compounds the problem of individuals being ill prepared to provide for their care should they develop a chronic illness or cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s disease.

Panelists agreed that there are continued roles for both public and private financing of long-term care.  They noted that there is a need however, for new private financing options since currently too few people purchase long-term care insurance to make the current system effective.

Hearing witnesses included: Bruce Chernof, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer, The SCAN Foundation;  Mark J. Warshawsky, Visiting Adjunct Scholar, American Enterprise Institute; Judy Feder, PhD, Professor, Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy and Fellow, Urban Institute;  Anne Tumlinson, MMHS, Senior Vice President, Avalere Health.